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Billie Holiday and Lester Young: Fine and Mellow (1957)

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Published on May 13, 2013

From 'The Sound of Jazz', 8 December 1957, one of the first major programs focusing on jazz to air on American network television (CBS).

Billie Holiday with Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan and Vic Dickenson.

Jazz critic Nat Hentoff recalled that during rehearsals, Billie Holiday and Lester Young kept to opposite sides of the room. During the performance of "Fine and Mellow", Hentoff recalled, "Lester got up, and he played the purest blues I have ever heard, and [he and Holiday] were looking at each other, their eyes were sort of interlocked, and she was sort of nodding and half--smiling. It was as if they were both remembering what had been—whatever that was. And in the control room we were all crying. When the show was over, they went their separate ways."

On the way to Lester Young's funeral in 1959, Billie Holiday said she thought she'd be next to go. She was dead less than four months later.

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